What to Expect Traveling Solo and Why it is Something Everyone Should Do
Written by Connery September 14, 2015
A month in Europe, with nothing but what you carry, will definitely test someone on the kind of person they are. I’m not going to lie, I had my ‘oops’ moments and my “I NEED to go home” moments, but looking back, the month of travel really changed me. To start off, I learned that you don’t need to be somewhere you know to truly feel happy, you just need to be honest with yourself. I entered into Europe knowing only a couple people through Facebook, but will be arriving in Italy knowing I have many more groups I would consider family and those who consider me theirs. Although I’ve learned so much, I’ll point out what you should expect when traveling solo.
Learning to be Self Reliant: To start out with why it is life changing, right off the bat you’re alone and no one is in charge of you, but you. You can’t blame anyone but you if you screw up. Not only that, but with no one to fall back on for a conversation, you’re almost forced to talk to other people. Every hostel I’ve been at I knew no one, but leaving I knew so many, and a couple exams more like family. It really shows you that we’re all human, and actually are interested in conversations with other people. Not only that, but the people you meet one day may become great, lifelong friends the next day, especially when you travel with them.
What is Worth Keeping and What is Worth Tossing: When all you can carry is what’s on your back for a month, you will quickly realize what is worth keeping around and what is just a impulse buy/carry that you later regret. The biggest one I noticed for me was actually before I left for Europe. I was going to bring a winter jacket, but realizing that the weather in Italy is FAR warmer in the winter than in Michigan, I decided against it and I’m happy I did so. I packed a hostel sheet, and not even a week into travels, I tossed it for a legitimate sleeping bag (Sleeping in a tent during a storm for a weekend will do that). Had I not unpacked my jacket, I probably wouldn’t have had room for my sleeping bag and that would have just been more to carry around me. Before you leave for traveling, really think of what you want to carry with you for that period of time.
Proper Investments: A high-quality backpack and a comfortable pair of shoes will go a VERY long way when traveling. Especially when that’s all you have on you. Not only that, but the saying “Two is One, and One is None” is as important. I broke a pair of sunglasses about 2 weeks into the trip, and rather than buying a new pair, I packed an extra pair. With the room you save from bringing non needed items, you will be able to bring a second item of what you need. And if all else fails, you can just buy it abroad. Chances are you can find a place where you can buy it for cheap.
Problem-solving: Traveling alone, or just traveling in general for a long period of time, will have its moments where no matter how much you plan, things will go off script and you need to adapt to the situation at hand. My first example is actually my flight to Europe. At first, I was under the impression that I could get a Visa for my time in Italy and keep my days in the Schengen Region under 90, but after realizing that I couldn’t get a visa, I had to change 3 weeks of my month to spend them outside the Schengen Region. The second example is one that is a bit more complex: I was taking trains from Sofia, Bulgaria to Brussels, Belgium. While it looked good on paper, and would have worked the week before I actually left, the week I went back into the Schengen Region the Migrant/Refugee crisis of Hungary occurred, and I couldn’t catch my night train from Budapest to Munich. Having that happen, I had to catch a flight from Budapest to Brussels. Unfortunately, the cheapest I could find was $600 one way next day. After doing a little bit of research, I found a flight to Stuttgart for half the price, and train tickets from there to Brussels was a lot cheaper than a direct flight. In short, be willing to completely adapt your situation and you’ll do fine.
Finding the Silver Lining in Everything: Going off my previous point, I learned was that the more off the beaten path it was from normal tourist traps, the more genuine the people were. Comparing Bulgaria to Denmark, I really noticed that people in Bulgaria were far more interested in a conversation, and actually wanted to talk, than people in Denmark, especially at the American hangout I so foolishly went to. The landscape was also so different from what was normal where I come from. In short, don’t focus on the negatives and focus on the positives – your trip will be so much better.
Realization: The world is a big place. You will figure that out as you travel, but when you are alone, you really see just how small you are in the grand scheme of things. It scares some people, but I found it to be relaxing and honestly humbling. I met people from America, Australia, Taiwan, New Zealand, and so many other places. Each of them with a story of their travels, a recommendation on where to go, and a friendship being forged. You meet people from all walks of life, and hear all sorts of stories. I can’t stress it enough that you really see just how big the world is.
Personal Growth: If there is one thing I should warn you, it’s that you will change. Whether you like it or not, you will change, and probably, grow as a person. Before my month abroad, I was very much an over-analyzing planner, but during the month, and after a lot of things happening that I couldn’t control, I realized that I need to be more flexible with what happens. In fact, I cancelled my trip to Serbia to spend a few more nights in Bulgaria and had no regrets doing it. You will truly change as you travel, and you will notice it quickly.
In short, don’t go to the tourist cities of the world. Take the back door and go places you wouldn’t normally go to. You may find that you have a love for the rustic countries and places you visit. Had I not had to change my plans because of the 90-day Visa limit, I wouldn’t have gone to Bulgaria and I wouldn’t have realized what a truly beautiful country it is. Or I would not have discovered the capabilities I have as a human.
Now off to Venice to study. While that’s the main reason I’m in Europe, and writing this blog, I’m going to miss being a true nomad. I can’t wait to be on the next train/bus/plane to my next adventure, and here’s to hoping I can change a few minds on what being a true adventurer is all about.
“As you travel Solo being totally responsible for yourself, it’s inevitable that you will discover just how capable you are.” – Janice of Solo Traveler Blog